Something in Addition to Work

More than 30 years ago a good friend told me the speech he made to his boss: “I will give you five full days of work every week,” he said. “You can have them in five days, or I’ll spread the work across seven. You choose.” 

My friend had discovered what someone else describes as the rule of the clenched fist. If you make a fist and hold it tight, it can pack a wallop for awhile. But try holding that fist clenched all day. Eventually the muscles in your hand and wrist will tremble and give out, and the fist won’t punch anything. 

It’s a principle in all of life: rest after work makes more work possible. We’re most productive and creative when we take breaks from our work. In fact, Henry G. Brinton, writing in USA Today, points to God’s example of creating the whole world in six days and then resting on the seventh: “Resting is an act of creativity,” he wrote. 

Not long ago I saw my friend and asked him about his five days/seven days speech. “What do you think of that idea now that you’re approaching the end of your career?” He stared into space and said he didn’t remember ever saying it. 

Evidently his resolve eroded, and I’m trying to decide how I feel about that. 

Is it only realistic and necessary that a person will spend more time working as his responsibilities increase? Or should we buck the trend in our culture to work more, sleep less, and fill every day with activity? 

For years I’ve been intrigued by the idea of Sabbath keeping. I’ve talked about it and read about it. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how I observe the principle week after week. The assignments at work, the opportunities through the local church, and the tasks of a homeowner are always before me. 

Is it possible that Christians, the people of God, experience less of the Sabbath than the unchurched crowds around them? My neighbor, a house builder, volunteered to fix some warped boards on the floor of my backyard deck. He had lent me the tools to do it myself, but he soon figured out I didn’t know what I was doing. So he came and finished the job himself. 

“Thanks so much! I didn’t mean to get you into a big project,” I told him. 

“Don’t worry about it,” he replied. “I wasn’t doing anything.” He finished and went back to sit by his swimming pool. 

As I ticked items off my to do list the rest of the afternoon, I couldn’t get his words out of my mind. Not doing anything? How long had it been since an afternoon had stretched before me unplanned and unfilled? 

Maybe you’ll have some time like that this weekend. It’s Labor Day in America, when we celebrate the worker by taking off work. If you have a few hours to rest, don’t feel guilty. Doing nothing can be the secret to doing something that’s really worthwhile.

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